I started drawing with a Flair pen in about eighth grade and covered the margins of my notebooks with what I thought was groovy typography and illustration. It’s pretty cringe-worthy now, but I was obsessed with these intense drawings straight through high school and a bunch of them ended up in my yearbook at Cardinal Spellman High School.
Chris Francis was my art teacher. She was a pretty tough lady. Ms. Francis silkscreened t-shirts and posters for her boat club, which I thought was really cool. She pushed me to take the Saturday drawing classes at Pratt Manhattan, and entered my work in competitions. Ms. Francis took continuing ed classes at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and recommended I check out the College. We kept in touch until she passed away in the late ‘80s, and I remember her fondly as my first mentor.
The rose drawing was from my high school art class, and the charcoal nude was from that Saturday workshop at Pratt. I felt really cool coming into the city with my giant portfolio and sketchpad. Visions was our school literary magazine, and I did the covers in pen and ink. (I can’t believe I sent that. It’s so corny.)
I carried around the first two B-52s album covers. That's what I wanted to make.
At first, I thought “good art” had to be realistic, but then I fell in love with design that was more stripped down, colorful, and graphic. I actually carried around the first two B-52s album covers. That's what I wanted to make. Early on in college (at SVA), I discovered Paula Scher’s work and knew that I wanted to become what was then called a “commercial artist.” Paula’s work was graphic, kind of loud, and definitely witty. She was my portfolio teacher in my fourth year at SVA and all I wanted to do was please her. I wanted to be as clever as her, as smart as her, as sharp-edged. All were impossible feats.
We had a small black book in the art room at Cardinal Spellman called Careers in the Visual Arts that was produced by Visual Arts Press (SVA), where ironically, I am now the creative director. That book, and the Paul Davis SVA poster that said, “To be good is not enough when you dream of being great,” became my inspiration to attend SVA. I thought the copy line was just brilliant, and it summed up everything I wanted for myself (and have still yet to achieve). I used to have a blue enamel pin with it in gold type, and I wish I knew where it was. And of course, Paul Davis’s aspirational image—and even his tidy and elegant signature—just blew me away. It inspired my entire future.
Gail Anderson is a New York-based designer, writer, and educator. She is the creative director of Visual Arts Press at the School of Visual Arts, and is a founding partner at Anderson Newton Design.
From 2002 through 2010, she served as Creative Director of Design at SpotCo, a New York City advertising agency that creates artwork for Broadway and institutional theater. From 1987 to early 2002, she worked at Rolling Stone magazine, serving as designer, deputy art director, and finally, as the magazine's senior art director.
Anderson’s work has received awards from major design organizations, including the Society of Publication Designers, the Type Directors Club, The American Institute of Graphic Arts, The Art Directors Club, Graphis, Communication Arts, and Print. It has also been included in the permanent collections of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, the Library of Congress, and the Milton Glaser Design Archives at the School of Visual Arts.
Anderson teaches in the School of Visual Arts undergraduate design program, and has served on the advisory boards for Adobe Partners by Design, the Society of Publication Designers, and the Type Directors Club. She is a member of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee for the US Postal Service.